that it will triumph.”rnAlthough he does not discuss the Nashville Agrarians or thernBritish Distributists in The Conservative Mind, these were tworn”lost causes” for which Kirk felt a particular fondness. A yearrnand a half before his death, he delivered a lecture entitled “Menrnof Letters as Renewers of Society” at a symposium honoringrnthese two groups. Despite the different cultural backgroundsrnfrom which the Agrarians and Distributists emerged, bothrnmovements shared a reactionary, anti-industrial bias. ThernAgrarians celebrated the culture of the Old South and advocatedrnsubsistence farming as a solution to the social and economicrnills plaguing the South during the Great Depression. Distributismrnwas a land reform movement launched in England byrnthe Catholic writers G.K. Chesterton and blilaire Belloc. Likernthe Agrarians, the Distributists deeply distrusted modernityrnand longed for the restoration of a predominantly rural society.rnBoth the Agrarians and Distributists believed that the widespread,rndecentralized ownership of property would have a conser’rnatie influence on society by giving the vast majority of peoplerna tangible stake in the communities where they lived. Torndefine the situation in indigenously American terms, the industrialistsrnwere children of Alexander Hamilton, while thernDistributists and Agrarians were the sort of yeoman farmersrnwho formed the backbone of a Jeffersonian society.rnWhether or not the specific policies advocated by the Agrariansrnand the Distributists would have had the desired effect,rntheir predictions about the future of an industrialized societyrnhave proved chillingly prescient. Surveying American life fromrnthe perspective of 1992, Kirk observed:rnOur great cities, a hundred Long Streets, are nearly ruined,rnra’aged by crime, their population corrupted or endangeredrnby deadly narcotics, all community destroyed.rnOur boasted affluence is given the lie by the swift andrnsinister growth of a genuine proletariat, voracious and unruly,rnsubsisting at public expense. . . . Our air is pollutedrnbadly, our countryside uglified, public taste corrupted.rn. . . While we talk windilv still of free enterprise, the industrialrnand commercial conglomerates move towardrnoligopoly on tremendous scale. Religious belief andrnobservance have been first reduced to the ethos of sociability,rnand then to ignorant discourses on revolution.rnLeiathan, the monstrous society, has swallowed hisrnmyriads.rnNcoconservatives, along with other members of the Reaganrncoalition, might well have been disturbed by Kirk’s remarks.rnFor one thing, he was describing American society after conscr-rn’ativc Republicans had been in the White House for nearly 12rnyears. When Reagan ran for reelection in 1984, his campaignrndeclared it to be “Morning in America,” and when GeorgernBush argued for the moral equivalent of a third Reagan term inrn1988, his theme was “Stay the Course.” Kirk’s point is not thatrnthe country would have been in better shape under WalterrnMondale or Michael Dukakis, but that even the most enlightenedrnpoliticians are limited in their ability to improve society.rnAs humbling as it might be, most intellectually honest politiciansrnwould concede as much. What would have given ncoconservativesrnand other Reaganites much greater difficulty wasrnKirk’s skepticism about the blessings of technology and economicrngrowth. Like the Agrarians and Distributists before him,rnKirk was an “environmental extremist” who lacked the properrnrespect for unfettered commerce.rnThe attitudes Kirk expressed were ones that Norman Podhoretzrnwould almost certainly identify with the “adversary culture.”rnIn his book The Bloody Crossroads, Podhoretz notes thatrn”the very act of becoming an intellectual or an artist in Americarn[has come] to mean that one was in effect joining the partyrnof opposition—placing oneself (to use the term made famousrnby Lionel Trilling in Beyond CuUure) in an ‘adversary’ relationrnto the business civilization and all its works.” Although such anrnattitude had roots in the Christian ethic, Podhoretz contendsrnthat it was almost wholly appropriated by the nihilistic left inrnthe 1960’s. The only anti-industrial sentiment he acknowledgesrnon the right emerged in Europe in the form of “fascismrnand of literally reactionary political movements which advocatedrnthe restoration of monarchy or of an essentially feudal socialrnorganization.” Completely ignoring the Southern Agrarian traditionrnthat he would later condemn, Podhoretz writes thatrn”nothing really comparable materialized in the United States,rnpossibly because this country had no feudal past.”rnThe differences between Podhoretz and Kirk are perhapsrnclearest when one considers their respective discussions ofrnHenry Adams, hi The Bloody Crossroads, Podhoretz depictsrnAdams as a tiresome poseur who had a baneful influence onrnAmerican culture. His intellectual autobiography. The Educationrnof Henry Adams, is the continuous, interminable whine ofrnan 18th-centurv man tragically unfit for a world hurtling towardrnthe 20th century. Although there was much that deserved criticismrnin the Gilded Age, Adams was petulantly blind to his culture’srngenuine achievements in literature, philosophy, and thernarts. As a result, his historical research, particulariy into the lifernof the Middle Ages, seems like nothing so much as a form of escapism,rnthe work of a highbrow Miniver Cheevy. Although herncomplained of powerlessness in his own time, Adams’s writingrnhas remained a force in ours, “when the names of Rutherford B.rnHayes or Chester Arthur are scarcely remembered.” We shouldrnnot, however, take this to “mean that Adams is a force forrngood.” “On the contrary,” Podhoretz concludes, “in encouragingrna bigoted contempt for this country and in subdy denigratingrnand devaluing the life of the mind, he has asserted so malignantrnan influence t h a t . . . 1 see little of value that would bernlost by allowing him to slip into the obscurity he so often boastedrnof wishing to achieve.”rnIn The Conservative Mind, written four decades before Podhorctz’srnessav, Russell Kirk readilv admits that Henrv Adams isrneasy to dislike. His conceit and censoriousness make him “thernmost irritating person in American letters.” But he is also “thernmost provocative writer, and the best historian, and one of thernmost penetrating critics of ideas” that this country has ever produced.rnKirk shares Adams’s disdain for the greed and technologicalrnhubris of American life during the latter part of the 19thrncentury and the early part of the 20th. Kirk believes, however,rnthat Adams’s pervasive gloom was due more to his secularismrnthan to objective conditions in societv. A convert to RomanrnCatholicism, Kirk makes his case in terms one cannot imaginernNorman Podhoretz accepting. “Christian orthodoxy,” Kirkrnwrites, “believes in an eternity which, as it is superhuman, isrnsupra-terrestrial; and the real world being a world of spirit,rnman’s fate is not dependent upon the vicissitudes of this planet,rnbut may be translated by divine purpose into a realm apartrnfrom our present worid of space and time. In this certitude,rnChristians escape from the problem of degradation of energy;rnAPRIL 1997/19rnrnrn